“At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out” (Numbers 9:23, ESV).
After their escape from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites constructed a transportable tabernacle to worship God during their Sinai wilderness wanderings. God demonstrated His presence among them by covering the tabernacle with a cloud by day and the appearance of fire by night.
The cloud and appearance of fire indicated the presence of God’s Spirit with His chosen people.
Whenever the cloud lifted over the great tent, the Israelites would set out and continue on their journey and then encamp in the place where the cloud would settle. They might set up camp for for a few days, a month and even longer when the cloud settled over the tabernacle (Numbers 9:22). Undoubtedly, it was quite a feat to disassemble and reassemble the tabernacle when the cloud lifted (see Numbers 1:50–52; 3–4).
God leads His people by setting and revealing a path for each believer’s life. This verse indicates that there are two important aspects to God’s guidance: stopping and going. Stopping means remaining and waiting on God to lead and going means moving forward when He leads in a new direction.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged'” (Numbers 5:5-7, NIV).
Many of the laws God decreed concerned the offering of sacrifices in the tabernacle as atonement for sin. Embedded in these acts of sacrifice were some fundamental principles for maintaining good relationships with God and other people.
The principle for maintaining good relationships with God and other people expounded in this verse is one that I’ve used with my children on several occasions when their conduct towards other kids or adults was inappropriate. You probably have, too!
And, it’s certainly one us adults should follow as well.
“For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, NLT).
A quick read through the book of Leviticus (which is generally the way I read it) may lead you to believe that the focus of the book is on obedience to God’s law–obedience to a set of moral laws that seems to establish a code of conduct practically impossible to follow.
Upon closer inspection you will see that the theme of the book is holiness: “You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common” (Leviticus 10:10, NLT). What’s behind the laws, and is stated repeatedly throughout the book, is a description of God’s holiness.
So, if the Lord is holy, the people who worship Him must be holy because only holy can be in the presence of Holy. Yahweh is certainly not a god who can be worshiped from afar. He is the “I AM” who resides among and within His people.
“You shall not make for yourselves an image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations for those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NIV).
These verses are the 2nd Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Although I’ve read and repeated the 2nd Commandment many times, I’ve never paid much attention to the second part of the commandment, which explains the consequences of obeying or not obeying the commandment.
But, God uses the pronouncement of a curse and blessing in the 2nd Commandment to make a striking contrast between the everlasting effects of His boundless love for those who worship and obey Him with the exigency of punishment for idolators.
“Consider God’s work! Who can straighten what God has made crooked? When times are good, enjoy the good; when times are bad, consider: God has made the former as well as the latter so that people can’t discover anything that will come to be after them” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, CEB).
How great is God’s work in His Creation. God knows exactly how He has made us and what we need to live fulfilling lives.
These verses notify us that although God is sovereign, our lives aren’t predetermined. Good times and bad times are both part of life. They make life a crooked path.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel… This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord'” (Exodus 30:13-14, NIV).
The census was actually a way to determine a record of military manpower. But, when Moses enlisted men for military service, he was also to take a ransom from each twenty-year-old or more male and use it for the construction and ministry of the Tabernacle.
“Crossing over to those already counted” literally meant passing over to those who are mustered. It meant joining the ranks of the enlisted men. By passing muster the Israelite male effectively became a soldier in the Israeli militia–the Lord’s army.
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).
Sometimes we don’t behave consistently with what we believe–or we claim to believe. What we purport is not how we comport!
Our behavior is defined by our beliefs–what we really, really believe, not what we say we believe.
It’s called ethics.
When we are more concerned with pleasing others, going along, or not standing out from the crowd than we are about doing the right thing, then we compromise what we believe. We behave unethically.
And, it begs the question: If you don’t behave it, do you really believe it?